Pallotti girls basketball brings organized chaos to the court under new coach

Pallotti's Nia Thweatt, left, is one of the returning players for the Panthers who are 3-2 this season.
Pallotti's Nia Thweatt, left, is one of the returning players for the Panthers who are 3-2 this season. (File photo)

Teams facing the St. Vincent Pallotti girls basketball team better be prepared to make adjustments throughout the game because this year’s Panthers boast young talented athletes and a new coach ready to showcase all of them.

“I have 11 players on varsity and all 11 players play,” said head coach Jocara Knight, who takes over for Russell Davis.


Knight, a former player who graduated from Laurel High in 2000, is familiar with the program and the school.

He coached for four seasons as an assistant to Josh Pratt and left along with Pratt after the team posted a 19-16 record in 2013.


Knight takes over a young squad that finished 11-15 overall and 3-9 last season in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference.

Jocara Knight - Original Credit:
Jocara Knight - Original Credit: (handout / HANDOUT)

The only senior that graduated from last season was 6-foot-4 Musharapha Alhassan.

This year’s Panthers started the season by winning three of their first five games.

The opened with an 81-48 loss to National Christian Academy and followed that with victories over Montgomery Blair, 65-29, and Colonial Forge, of Virginia, 53-31.


On Dec. 11, the Panthers lost at IAAM A Conference foe John Carroll, 82-51, but they evened their record at 1-1 in the conference with a 60-48 win over Archbishop Spalding.

The Panthers have only one senior, guard Jerazya Griffin (5-5), on the roster.

Returning varsity player Cynthia Roberts (5-7) is in the only junior. She had 12 rebounds in the win over Colonial Forge.

Roberts figures to be strong on the boards, along with 6-2 sophomore Larri Syndor.

“Larri Sydnor is my banger,” Knight said. “Her and Roberts do my dirty work [rebounding] for me.”

Varsity veteran sophomores Anii Harris (5-8), Jania Hall (5-8) and Tahlia Brown-Stangherlin (5-6) are off to strong starts.

Harris had a game-high 14 points against Blair and Hall (11) and Brown Stangherlin (9) combined for 20 points.

Sophomore twins Nia Thweatt (5-7) and Lindsay Thweatt (5-7) are the only other returning players from last year’s varsity.

“If you have a scouting report on my team, it’s going to be very interesting, because any one of my freshmen or sophomores could have a good game,” Knight said.

Freshman Anani Humphrey had a game-high 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the win over Colonial Forge.

Freshman Larrin Syndor (5-9), the younger sister of Larri, had seven points against Blair.

Laila Whitaker (5-6) is the third freshmen on the roster.

“I’ve got a group of girls that play very hard for me, so I love coaching them,” Knight said. “We are going to be very consistent this year, but I believe next year is when we are going to turn the corner.”

So far, the coach has been impressed with his team’s tenacity.

“The one thing I like about this team is we are very aggressive and tenacious on defense,” said Knight, whose team had 26 steals against Blair and 15 against Colonial Forge.

While defense should be a strength, Knight is slightly concerned about the team’s inexperience.

“We are very young so they are very gullible, but it’s a good gullible,” Knight said. “Young teams play very hard because they don’t know no better and I’ve got a group of girls that play very hard for me, so I love coaching them.”

Knight, who played college basketball at Kirkwood Community College and Frostburg State University, plans to keep everybody on the court involved and help them adapt to the right position on the court.

“It’s my job to put them in a position to succeed,” Knight said.

Through the early regular-season games and scrimmages, the new coach likes the positive feedback he’s getting from fans and opposing coaches.

“They like the style we are playing because we play a very different style,” Knight said. “I like to call it organized chaos.”

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